How to claim ESA for depression (Guide)

In this article, we’ll find out how to claim ESA for depression and how to get ready for the ESA medical assessment.

Also, we will address the issue of depression: types and symptoms. 

Can you claim ESA for depression?

It is possible to claim ESA for depression if this condition, among other consequences, prevents you from working.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), is a financial benefit awarded to those who cannot work because of an illness or a disability.

The main goal is to support the individual while he or she is in treatment or recovery.

Many claims for ESA are for depression, work-related stress and anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Qualifying for ESA

In order to get an ESA assessment, you have to check for what type of ESA you are eligible for.

There is the “New Style ESA” and the “Income-related ESA”. 

Contribution-based ESA, or the “New Style” ESA is awarded to those claimants who have paid sufficient National Insurance (NI) contributions.

The income-related ESA is awarded to those applicants who are on a low income, and it can be awarded either on its own or in addition to contribution-based ESA.

You are eligible for ESA if:

  • You are under the state pension age.
  • You are getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).
  • You are not getting Jobseekers Allowance (JSA).

People who get ESA become part of either: 

  1. The work-related activity group (WRAG) – this means that to keep getting ESA, you’ll have to do a work-related activity like go to meetings with work advisers or group sessions to help improve your chances of getting work in future.
  2. The support group – it is not mandatory to do any work-related activity to keep getting your ESA.

How can you claim ESA for depression?

If you want to claim ESA for depression and you are wondering if it’s even possible, you should know that a majority of ESA claims are for stress, anxiety, and depression.

What you have to do in order to start the application process is to collect a medical certificate (fit note) from a medical specialist.

After you get the fit note, you can make an ESA claim with the DWP.

The medical assessment

A medical assessment is mandatory when you claim ESA for depression. After you submit your capability for work questionnaire (ESA50 form), you’ll be asked to go for a medical assessment, called a ‘Work Capability Assessment’.

The assessments are carried out by the Health Assessment Advisory Service.

The service will send you a letter telling you the date, time and location of your assessment.

You are allowed to take someone with you into the assessment if you think this person will make you feel more comfortable and will give you support during the assessment.

If you are claiming ESA for depression, you will be asked questions related to your mental and physical health.

We have some sample questions that you can try to answer, in order to prepare for the ESA assessment: 

  • Do you know what you are here for?
  • What are your medical conditions?
  • How long have you had depression?
  • How does depression affect you?
  • Do you have any hobbies or interests?
  • How are your sleeping patterns?
  • How is your social life?
  • What thought worries you the most?

It’s important to go to your assessment, no matter how nervous you feel on the day.

If you don’t go, the DWP will assume that you are fit for work and your claim will be canceled.

If something happens and you have to postpone, make sure you call and let them know, before the appointment. 

The points system

You need to score 15  points in any individual activities, or a total of 15 points for a combination of the physical or mental activities, in order to meet the criterion for limited capability for work.

It’s at this stage the DWP  will consider if it will place you in support or limited capability for work-related activity groups.

If you score below 15 points, you are not entitled to ESA.

Get to know your symptoms

The main element of depression is the depressive, sad disposition, apparently for no reason, present most of the time.

In children and adolescents, this condition may be more irritable than sad. The person suffering from depression feels sad, desperate, discouraged, powerless, “heartless”.

It can also be manifested by a marked diminution of interest or pleasure for all or almost all activities.

All areas of activity can be affected. Some people report that they are no longer interested in hobbies, activities they previously considered enjoyable, fun.

Depression is divided into four categories, depending on the circumstances:

  1. Major Depressive Disorder – the individual is feeling sad, hopeless is lacking focus and losing interest in daily activities. These symptoms must last at least two weeks to be considered Major Depressive Disorder.
  2. Postpartum Depression – Many women experience affective symptoms during the postpartum period, 4-6 weeks after birth. Most commonly it is the postnatal transient depression (“baby blues”), which occurs 2-3 days after birth and is characterized by affective lability, sadness, irritability, unmotivated crying.
  3. Seasonal Depression – Most scientists believe that winter depression is associated with how the body responds to natural light. Because the day is shorter in winter, the lack of natural light produces hormonal imbalances in the body.
  4. Bereavement – The loss of a loved one and mourning can cause depression, in some situations.

There are several symptoms associated with depression that are not universal.

They can vary from person to person.

Depression can affect a person emotionally, physically, cognitively and behaviorally. 

Emotional Symptoms of Depression

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent
  • Feelings of extreme sadness
  • Not liking oneself
  • Feeling like life is not worth living

Physical Symptoms of Depression

  • Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning or oversleeping
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained
  • Headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
  • Feeling like always in slow motion

Cognitive Symptoms of Depression

  • Trouble focusing, making decisions or remembering things.
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Feelings of not performing well at work, not being good enough, etc. 
  • lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure

Behavioral Symptoms of Depression

  • Substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Restlessness and feeling on edge
  • Loss of intimacy with a partner
  • No interest in moving from couch or bed

How long does it take to get ESA?

It can take several months for the DWP to make a decision.

Generally, applicants that haven’t heard anything regarding their claim can contact the DWP after eight weeks of sending off the ESA50 questionnaire. 

However, if you are a first-time applicant the DWP can send you some money straight away.

This happens only when they believe they only do this if they believe the claimant will be eligible for ESA.

Also, if the DWP eventually decides that you are not eligible for ESA, you won’t have to pay the money already received back. 

To help your case, don’t forget to send a fit note from your GP, along with the claim form.

This can seriously speed up the entire process.

If you disagree with the final decision

If you disagree with the DWP’s decision you can ask for a mandatory reconsideration.

This is the first step you can take when challenging a decision.

At a mandatory reconsideration the decision-maker will look again on your case and the evidence you provided. 


In this article, we discussed how to claim ESA for depression and whether it’s possible to do this.

As we found out, it is possible to claim ESA for depression,  among other consequences, depression prevents you from working.

Before applying for ESA, remember to check what type of Employment and Support Allowance you are eligible for and don’t forget to get a “fit note” from your GP. 

It can take several months before you hear from the DWP, so make sure you take care of yourself and your mental health in the meantime.

There are free services and support groups in the UK, that you can access for emotional support and advice. 

Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below. 

FAQ on How to claim ESA for depression

Can you get ESA for depression?

You can get ESA for depression, as a majority of ESA claims are for stress, anxiety, and depression.

Once you collect a fit note from your doctor, you can make an ESA claim.

Can you get benefits for depression?

You can get benefits for depression, but you must show you have severe depression by having at least five of the following symptoms: depressed mood. decreased interest in almost all activities.

In this case, you could qualify for either Social Security disability or SSI disability benefits.

Is it hard to get disability for depression?

It is not hard to get disability for depression, if your mental health is so severe, even with anti-depressive medication, that you can’t work any type of job.

In this case, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

 Can I claim benefits for mental health?

You can claim benefits for mental health if you struggle to find or keep a job.

You may be entitled to a range of welfare benefits such as Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Do you need a sick note to claim ESA?

You will need to get a medical certificate, called a fit note, from your GP at the start of your claim, that you will have to send along with the claim form to the DWP. 

Can I claim ESA if I have savings?

You can claim ESA even if you have savings since contribution-based ESA is not affected by your income or savings as it is paid if you’re entitled to it and you have made enough National Insurance contributions.


  1. Employment and Support Allowance: A Guide to ESA for People with a Disability or Long Term Health Condition, Their Families, Carers and Advisors 
  2. Positive Behavior Supports for Adults with Disabilities in Employment, Community, and Residential Settings
  3. Be Held: Daily Inspiration When Facing Depression
  4. The Depression Workbook for Teens: Tools to Improve Your Mood, Build Self-Esteem, and Stay Motivated
  5. Light Therapy Lamp


  1. ESA Assessment Guide – Health Assured
  2. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – GOV.UK
  3. Do I Have Depression and Can an ESA Help? – ESA Doctors